1953 Kay 161 Thin Twin

This is a vintage 1953 Kay 161 “Thin Twin” electric guitar. This particular example is in very excellent condition and features a blonde lightly figured maple top and back, with dark mahogany sides. This early production, un-branded version, is identical to a Kay in every respect, though during the first couple years of manufacture, the K-161 did not display the embossed, and somewhat distracting, Kay lightning-bolt crest on the headstock veneer. This incredibly classic and understated instrument has long been appreciated for being both a practical and well-designed early electric guitar. Played by Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Dylan and T Bone Burnett, the K-161 has also recently been re-issued by several companies, including the recent Kay Custom Shop ThinTwin (MSRP of $2,999.00) that was discontinued after they sold out. Why pay more for a reproduction when you can have the original for less?

Serial Number: 5902
Pot Codes: 3043?? (Stackpole)
Weight: 7 lbs. 0 oz.

This ’53 Kay K-161 Thin Twin is in 100% all original condition, and features; a flamed maple laminate top and back, mahogany sides and neck, a bound rosewood fingerboard with pearloid block inlays, (2) original single-coil “Thin Twin” blade pickups with all original harness, the fire-stripe pickguard and neck heel cap, original white small cupcake control knobs, no-name Kluson Deluxe tuning machines, original nickel tailpiece, and original hardware.

With a straight neck and a nice neck angle, this K-161 plays famously. While some are notorious for having high action, this specimen does not suffer from that sometimes irreparable back-bowed neck due to the absence of a truss rod. The original brass frets are in excellent shape, with plenty of life remaining and a prodigious enough profile for effortless playability. The neck is large and bulky, but with a very comfortable shape.

The guitar plays great, but sounds even better. The pickups are loud, efficient, and very distinct. Great for powerful strumming and sensitive picking alike, this versatile guitar is an incredible alternative instrument.

While this guitar is a very clean example, it is far from mint condition. The original pickguard has a couple very small stress cracks from natural shrinkage, none of which have resulted in chips. There is some minimal wear around the input jack, though it is not cracked in the area, just a little chewed up.

Also referred to as the “Jimmy Reed” guitar, the Kay 161 was one of the longest produced guitars by Kay Musical Instrument Company. One unique feature of the K-161 are the twin matching blade pickups with the three way selector switch. The units are mounted in a solid bar which is a continuation of the neck. This type of mounting makes the entire playing scale very rigid, and produces a pure, concise electronic tone with much greater sustaining power.